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South Pasadena, GNC store owner spar over sign

GNC store owner Brett Newby has tried to place the sign at left in the easement on South Pasadena Avenue, but the city won’t let him.

MELISSA LYTTLE | Times

GNC store owner Brett Newby has tried to place the sign at left in the easement on South Pasadena Avenue, but the city won’t let him.

SOUTH PASADENA — For three years Brett Newby has owned the GNC in the South Pasadena Plaza at 6886 Gulfport Blvd.

Since Publix moved out more than a year ago, the remaining businesses in the plaza have suffered, losing an average 2,000 cars per day in the parking lot.

The side of the plaza where Newby's GNC shop sits has no sign and is lined with trees, making the remaining shops barely visible. Of the 36 units in the plaza, 15 are vacant.

As a cost-effective way to advertise, Newby wants to place a professionally made swing sign on the easement South Pasadena Avenue from midmorning to closing time.

He said it would be especially good for tourists and winter residents who don't realize the store is there.

South Pasadena officials say Newby's signs are against the rules.

Newby argues that the sign is not blocking motorists' views or sidewalk traffic. Still, code enforcement will not allow it and has removed several signs he has put out in the past.

The city lets store owners put signs on their cars or have someone hold a sign at curbside.

City attorney Linda Hallas says the sign code is not strict, adding that Pinellas County did a model for sign codes that most cities adopted about 15 years ago.

"We had modified ours (codes) to allow reader boards, the electronic ones that change messages, which would be another way that the shopping center could update their sign."

Newby disagrees.

"The city is not very cooperative or helpful. I don't know why they have such a problem helping the businesses. I'm not asking them for help, just asking them not to get in the way," he said.

"The city is very concerned that half of our commercial space is vacant," Hallas said. "He (Newby) came to our meeting, and they did put it on a workshop for their next available meeting. There are procedures, and they take time."

Newby has been dealing with this issue for a couple of years now. He recently wrote an e-mail to Community Improvement director Gary Brevoort asking for leniency. Brevoort simply said there was no leniency.

Newby is not the only one frustrated with the city's sign codes.

"This argument has been going on for over 20 years," said Jeff Rich, owner of Esquire Barber in the plaza. "The city would always pass the buck and say, 'You have to go talk to the owners of the shopping center.' "

The small GNC sign on the center's main pylon on Pasadena Avenue is barely visible, and city officials suggested at a meeting that Newby contact the property owners to request more space for the sign. But Newby said the outdated sign is virtually ineffective.

When reached by phone, plaza property owners declined to comment.

Meanwhile, Hallas is looking into what neighboring cities have done, if anything, for their businesses to provide a little relief regarding signs.

She said she suspects the city might suspend some regulations for 60 to 90 days to see whether it helps, or whether anything will help.

"I'm not sure if a sandwich board is really going to make a difference," Hallas said. "I think they really need to get an anchor in there to survive. We'd love to see somebody rent the space."

South Pasadena, GNC store owner spar over sign 01/04/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 4, 2011 3:30am]
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